As I mentioned in Part 1 of this little series, recently Steven Moffat equaled and then surpassed his predecessor, Russell T. Davies, in terms of how many full length episodes of Doctor Who he had produced. As of Under the Lake, both men were in charge of exactly 60 episodes (full length ones, not counting minisodes, or charity specials, or special bonus scene scenes on the DVD’s, or whatever).
I decided to evaluate which one had done the better job, by comparing their work, episode by episode (Davies’ first episode vs. Moffat’s first episode, and so on). I admit I have a bit of a bias toward Moffat as a writer, but I’m trying to be as fair as I can in these evaluations. Also, I admit that some episodes I have not seen for a long time.
For the casual viewer who doesn’t have time to be aware of things like who is producing Doctor Who, Davies was in charge of the episodes during the Christopher Eccleston / David Tennant years, and Moffat has been in charge of the episodes from the Matt Smith / Peter Capaldi eras.
When I last left off this little endeavor, the score was close, with Moffat at 8 preferred episodes, and Davies at 7.
16. Tooth and Claw vs. Day of the Moon
I actually liked Tooth and Claw the one time I saw it, in spite of the sort of stupid hyper-silly martial arts guys at the beginning. But Day of the Moon I loved. It benefited from everything Steven Moffat is really good at: the hyper compressed storytelling (check out that opening!), the super creepy enemy (the Silence), and the rocking super-clever-Doctor-victory (“And that’s one whacking great kick up the backside for the Silence!”) An easy win for the Matt Smith episode.
Winner: Moffat (Day of the Moon)
17. School Reunion vs. Curse of the Black Spot
Curse of the Black Spot should have been great, with the whole pirate thing going on, but it wasn’t. It was choppy in its storytelling and editing, and ultimately felt like a huge let down after the 6th season of the show had gotten off to such a strong opening. School Reunion, on the other hand, brought Sarah Jane Smith and K9 back into the series. I actually am not too crazy about the episode, but I definitely prefer it over the competition.
Winner: Davies (School Reunion)
18. The Girl in the Fireplace vs. The Doctor’s Wife
And with this, we have our first really tough call for this little exercise. Back in the day, a lot of people considered The Girl in the Fireplace to be the best thing that the series had put out. I never felt that (at this point, I’d still rate The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances as the show’s finest hour (and a half). But it’s a good solid story that was really the first one to go whole-hog with the “timey-wimey” shenanigans, as well as positioning the Doctor as a romantic hero. Meanwhile, The Doctor’s Wife explored the Tardis in a way that the show never has before, and in so doing gave depth to the Doctor’s character that we hadn’t really seen before. It was also good solid story with lots interesting details to hang onto. In the end, I’m going to give it the win over The Girl in the Fireplace, whose biggest innovations have now become a bit over-familiar.
Winner: Moffat (The Doctor’s Wife)
19. Rise of the Cybermen vs. The Rebel Flesh
This is another tough one since both episodes are okay, but neither outstanding. However, in spite of some of the ways the story falls down in the second half, The Rebel Flesh I think has got a more interesting concept at its heart, and does more with it. Rise of the Cybermen re-introduced the Cybermen to Doctor Who universe, but in many ways the show has been trying to love down their “revised origin” ever since.
Winner: Moffat (The Rebel Flesh)
20. Age of Steel vs. The Almost People
In The Almost People, we find out that a bunch of plot points from The Rebel Flesh that we were hoping were going to make sense simply are not. So that’s too bad. But on the other hand, we get some pretty interesting stuff with a duplicate Doctor, and an outstanding twist ending as we learn the truth about Amy Pond. Age of Steel, on the other hand, has Cybermen marching around chanting “Delete!” and features Rose losing Mickey to his grandmother at the end. So um, yeah.
Winner: Moffat (The Almost People)
21. The Idiot’s Lantern vs. A Good Man Goes to War
I really don’t remember The Idiot’s Lantern very well. I’m pretty sure Rose was in trouble and the Doctor winds up crawled up a TV antenna. A Good Man Goes to War, on the other hand, featured the spectacularly disappointing revelation of River Song’s identity (not the actual spoiler, but the way it was done). But aside from that, it worked pretty well, with the introduction of a bunch of recurring characters (Vastra, Strax, Jenny), an underused by extremely creepy threat (the headless monks), a gut-wrenching twist when Amy’s baby turns out to be a Flesh-duplicate, and possibly the best title drop of any episode ever (“Demon’s run when a good man goes to war!”)
Winner: Moffat (A Good Man Goes to War)
22. The Impossible Planet vs. Let’s Kill Hitler
The Impossible Planet is a good one, stirring up some good chills and creeps. But I really liked Let’s Kill Hitler, which was fun and really connected the dots with the whole River Song thing. This was the cleverness that was missing in the previous episode’s revelation. I also enjoyed our final visit with Caitlin Blackwood as young Amelia, and some odd image-cameos of the Doctor’s previous companions.
Winner: Moffat (Let’s Kill Hitler)
23. The Satan Pit vs. Night Terrors
Night Terrors features some extremely freaky monsters in the form of those bizarre dolls that turned other people into dolls, but beyond that it doesn’t have much to recommend it. The Satan Pit keeps up the creepiness of the first part of that story and has some interesting dialog between the Doctor and a guest character as he descends that pit.
Winner: Davies (The Satan Pit)
24. Love and Monsters vs. The Girl Who Waited
Ouch. When I was watching Love and Monsters, I was kind of enjoying myself, seeing these various odd losers get together and find some sort of community with each other. But then they had to go and spoil with that ridiculous monster and everything about people getting absorbed and having their faces sticking out of slabs of concrete or whatever. The Girl Who Waited was a bit uneven, but had a very interesting concept and some intensely dramatic situations.
Winner: Moffat (The Girl Who Waited)
25. Fear Her vs. The God Complex
I don’t remember Fear Her all that well, but it is sort of considered to be legendarily bad. Was it really as awful as all that? Actually, scratch that – I can remember David Tennant delivering the Olympic torch with a big goofy grin on his face. That’s pretty bad. The God Complex, on the other hand, was a gripping little story that didn’t always make sense, which featured some interesting characters and was far from a travesty.
Winner: Moffat (The God Complex)
26. Army of Ghosts vs. Closing Time
Cybermen vs. Cybermen! Army of Ghosts is best remembered for its cliffhanger, possibly the best one of the entire Russell T. Davies era, when the Daleks make a surprise appearance in an episode that had already made a surprising revelation out of the involvement of the Cybermen. Closing Time, on the other hand, featured the return of Craig from The Lodger, which should have been a lot of fun, but it ended up being argualby the weakest episode of the entire sixth season.
Winner: Davies (Army of Ghosts)
27. Doomsday vs. The Wedding of River Song
I liked The Wedding of River Song better than a lot of people, with the return of the Silence and the craziness of all of time compressing into a single moment in the afternoon. And in general, I prefer Amy and Rory over Rose. But it’s hard to look past the ending of Doomsday, and the goodbye between Rose and the Doctor, which was perhaps the most affecting moment in the series up until then. Also, I like Pete Tyler and the happy ending that gave Jackie (even though she was never a character I really liked).
Winner: Davies (Doomsday)
28. The Runaway Bride vs. The Doctor, the Widow & the Wardrobe
This is a tough one. I really hated The Runaway Bride. I thought the monster / villain was hokey and absurd, and if you’d have told me that I would ever consider that shrieking harpy Donna Noble one of the series’ best companions, I would not have believed it. On the other hand, The Doctor, the Widow & the Wardrobe was mostly forgettable – the least interesting of Moffat’s Christmas episodes. But in the end I have to give it to the Matt Smith story, largely because the opening when the Doctor has his helmet stuck on backwards is funny, and because the ending where he goes to see Amy & Rory is quite moving.
Winner: Moffat (The Doctor, the Widow & the Wardrobe)
29. Smith and Jones vs. Asylum of the Daleks
Smith and Jones introduces Martha, who was an enjoyable character who got a bit of the short end of the stick from a writing point of view. It also involved an inventive story featuring a hospital being teleported to the moon and a funny group of space rhinos as relentless bounty hunters. Asylum of the Daleks, though, was a much higher stake story which brought out a new dimension to the Daleks and introduced us to the creepy, albeit silly, concept of Dalek zombies. And even more importantly, it brought Jenna Coleman into the show as the delightful but doomed Oswin. Indeed, it’s actually a very strong story, well beyond the serviceable Smith and Jones, with its one weakness being how underwritten the subplot of Amy & Rory’s marital problems are.
Winner: Moffat (Asylum of the Daleks)
30. The Shakespeare Code vs. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
I honestly don’t recall The Shakespeare Code all that well but I remember enjoying it. I remember Dinosaurs on a Spaceship better because it was more recent, but it wasn’t very good. There were some nice moments here and there, but overall was probably the weakest episode of Amy & Rory’s final stories, relying too much on the audacious concept to make it work, but failing.
Winner: Davies (The Shakespeare Code)
Russell T. Davies – 5
Steven Moffat – 10
And combining this with the results from last time, that gives us a running total of
Russell T. Davies – 12
Steven Moffat – 18
Until next time…e